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Looking for respite from these unforgivingly hot temperatures? We’ve curated a list of the chillest events that offer equal parts relief from the heat and quintessential summertime entertainment. Shop it like it’s hot at the return of Le Garage Sale or help keep yourself and your four-legged friends cool at Dogs Day of Summer. For those who prefer to venture outdoors after sundown, Bat Fest is the place to be. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a complete list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, August 24

aGLIFF presents Prism 36
Austin’s premiere LGBTQ+ film festival and oldest film festival in city history returns to a number of silver screens over five days of cinematic programming. Highlights of the ongoing event feature more than 50 films, exclusive screenings, afterparties, a dinner fundraiser, and more. A virtual component of the festival will be available once in-person events have concluded. For a full schedule of events and to purchase badges, go to agliff.org.

Friday, August 25

Deep Eddy Vodka presents the V.O.D.K.A. Conference
Local vodka distillery Deep Eddy makes a sound and super-cool case for getting the weekend started a little early at this high-energy “conference.” This work-free experience includes activations, fake conference merch, live entertainment, and complimentary food and drinks for professionals who are looking to blow off some steam off (or on) the clock. Admission is free and open to the public. Get more information on Eventbrite.

Tiff’s Treats Tiffwich Block Party
Treat yourself to something sweet at Tiff's Treats' Nueces Street location. Block party guests can sink their teeth into a free Tiffwich ice cream sandwich and enjoy a refreshingly cold snack that’s perfect for the summertime. Party admission is free and open to the public.

Saturday, August 26

Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy presents "Dog Days of Summer"
The International Dog Day fun is in full tail-wagging swing at this seasonal Zilker Botanical Garden shindig. Canine guests can enjoy a variety of pup pools spread throughout the event to stave off the hot temperatures, and enjoy goodies (T-R-E-A-T-S) from participating vendors. Additional highlights include live demonstrations, pet adoptions, giveaways, and more. For tickets and more information, visit zilkergarden.org.

Le Garage Sale
The city’s chicest sale of the year reopens for another healthy dose of end-of-season retail therapy. Attendees can expect rows upon rows and racks upon racks of sale-marked items from 100+ boutiques, brands, and designers over the course of two days at Palmer Events Center. Available items for purchase include luxe leisurewear, children’s apparel, menswear, home decor pieces, art, and more. Check out legaragsale.net for more event details.

Bat Fest 2023
Celebrate the unofficial and nocturnal mascot of Austin at the return of Bat Fest. This year’s highlights include a bat costume contest, kid’s zone activities, vendors, and a great view of the bats during their nightly flight. Attendees can also enjoy live music from special guests Mike Ryan Flo Rida, Lil Flip, George Birge, Mike Jones, Alien Ant Farm, and others. For more festival information and ticket options, check out roadwayevents.com.

Austin downtown skyline bats Congress Bridge
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Paddleboarders can enjoy a view from Lady Bird Lake as Austin's famous bats emerge from under Congress Ave on August 26.

Rowing Dock presents Bat Fest: A Limited-Edition Guided Bat Paddle
Experience the breathtaking natural phenomenon of more than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from under the Congress Avenue Bridge from the waters of Lake Austin during this special guided bat tour by Rowing Dock. This four-mile tour offers a unique view of the bats as they embark on their nightly feeding, while also offering up a background of live music from Bat Fest happening simultaneously. For tour details, visit rowingdock.com.

Photo by Hayffield L on Unsplash

New luxury pet grooming boutique opening in Cedar Park

paw-sitively perfect

Everyone loves a spa day, but how about treating your four-legged best friend to one too? Texas-based Petbar, a luxury pet grooming boutique, is opening their third Austin location in Cedar Park on Friday, July 7.

Petbar focuses on bringing its furry clients full-service washing and grooming services by professional groomers with the latest equipment and products. The Cedar Park location will also provide monthly memberships and a self-service station for pet owners that like to DIY their dog-washing experience.

The new location is spearheaded by an Austin family: Garrett and Aisling Dewan and their two daughters. They own four dogs of their own, two English bulldogs, a French bulldog, and a bulldog-chih tzu mix, which inspired them to become Petbar franchisees.

“You could say we’re an animal-loving family,” Aisling Dewan said in a press release.

To help celebrate the arrival of the new boutique, the first 100 guests who sign up for a membership during their opening week will have their $100 membership initiation fee waived.

"Petbar makes caring for beloved pets fun and easy," said Garrett Dewan. "Our concierge grooming team is amazingly talented and has such a high commitment to excellence."

After their soft launch opening on July 7, the Cedar Park Petbar will host a grand opening event from 9 am to 4 pm on Friday, July 14. Austinites can bring their dogs to enjoy some treats and mimosas, grab some Petbar swag, and capture memories together in a photo booth. The event is family-friendly, and special giveaways will happen throughout the day.

The new Cedar Park Petbar is located at 406 West Whitestone Boulevard, Building 2, Suite #204. More information can be found on petbarinc.com.

Photo courtesy of Mutts Cantina

10 dog-friendly Austin bars and patios where you can bring the whole pack

Dog Days

Dogs have great lives here in Austin, with swimming, hiking, and lots of green spaces just about everywhere in the city. Human meal time, though, can be a sad affair when man's best friend has to stay home. Thankfully, lots of Austin restaurants are more than dog-friendly — some of them can't get enough.

You can't swing a stick (go fetch!) around the perimeter of Austin without hitting a brewery that allows dogs, so we figure you've got that covered. The focus of this list is narrowed to restaurants, work spaces, and places to unwind, all in busier neighborhoods. No long drives this time — unless someone really wants their head out the passenger window.

MUTTS Canine Cantina
Okay, so this one is pretty obvious — but it will be a must-see dog haven when it opens in July. It was supposed to be mid-June, but every dog has its day. Canine companions aren't just allowed, but strongly encouraged. There will even be people on-staff to clean up after them and make sure everyone is getting along. Humans can enjoy burgers, "Barkaritas", and other common grill staples while the dogs run around.

One of two options basically right next to each other, coffee shop and wine bar Opa! is the more intimate option for a date or just a different sensibility — it's still casual and very eclectic, but slightly elevated compared to the neighboring businesses. No one will look twice at a dog coming out from the bar (unless he's very handsome, of course). The patio is one of the most beautiful in Austin, pet-friendly or otherwise.

Bouldin Acres
Right across the street from Opa!, cocktail, beer, and wine "drinkery" Bouldin Acres is the much sportier option, known for its outdoor space with pickleball courts, lawn games, and a food truck. Living up to the cookout feel, the business actively invites families and their pets to stop by on the website. There's lots of shelter from the sun thanks to shade structures, picnic tables, and dense greenery around the perimeter.

Radio Coffee & Beer
It's hard not to see dogs at Radio Coffee + Beer. The clientele sure loves to bring them to the shaded patio and yard, which stretches underneath two roofs and lots of statuesque trees. The coffee bar inside has some pastries, and the food trucks outside serve breakfast, tacos, fried chicken, and more. Most people at Radio go to work or chat with friends, so their dogs tend to hang around for a few hours at a time.

June's All Day
The busy part of South Congress sees a daily parade of pedestrians with dogs, and June's All Day is one of the more upscale offerings that's happy to host them. The Parisian bistro situates its patio tables behind a row of plants, under a long awning and umbrellas, so dogs will be protected from the sun and passersby. As the name implies, June's is open all day, but it's especially good for a leisurely brunch.

The Little Darlin
The Little Darlin knows its target audience: outdoorsy South Austinites with pets who feel the exact same way. This large outdoor space has lots of picnic tables that pets can lounge under to escape the sun, plus some trees overhead. For such a rustic setting, the long menu may surprise some visitors, who can order a few different salads, comfort foods, a cheesecake of the week, and vegan options like jerk "chicken."

Bakery Lorraine
Bakery Lorraine is a great place to stop while running errands at The Domain, and Fido can come, too — inside or out. The growing San Antonio-based bakery sells some of Austin's most lavish treats, as well as breakfast dishes like, of course, Quiche Lorraine. With sandwiches and drinks, it's great for takeout or to stick around. When the bakery has whipped cream on hand, visitors can order a "pup cup" free of charge.

Sour Duck Market
Not only is Sour Duck Market a fabulous place to get a sandwich no matter who you're with, you might want to slip a piece of steak to your friend under the table. The locale is easily accessible from downtown without being fully in the thick of it, and the outdoor area makes smart use of that extra space. One patio is enclosed in screen to keep the bugs away; The other is fully open, lined with water misters.

Hank's Austin
Hank's, with its modern and semi-industrial architecture, offers a deep, completely covered patio that's great for visitors of all kinds on a hot day. Canine friends are celebrated with frequent reposts on the restaurant's Instagram account. The Southern restaurant has a light and casual menu, but the food is still upscale and refreshing for another patio visit. Even better, burgers are half-off every Monday.

Honey Moon Spirit Lounge
This patio is chic, classy, and just a little weird — perfect for Austin. It's also completely covered, and the side yard is shady, too. The best part is the events and special menus; Honey Moon Spirit is good with a theme. It's a fun place for a special occasion, like a holiday prix fixe or the recurring outdoor burlesque brunch, without having to leave any furry family members behind. It's also a great cocktail destination if a full meal isn't on the table.

Photo courtesy of HomeToGo

Austin animal lovers live in one of the most pet-friendly cities in the U.S., report says


In addition to being National Moving Month (yes, it’s weird), May is also National Pet Month. To commemorate the month, experts from vacation rental marketplace HomeToGo have released their 2023 report of the most pet-friendly cities in the nation, and Austin made it into the top five.

Austin ranked No. 4 on a shortlist of 25 American cities that had the highest ratio of pet-friendly offers on HomeToGo, compared to a total 100 of the largest cities nationwide.

Some of the main attractions that Austin’s pups enjoy the most include Banger’s Sausage House on Rainey Street, where their menu includes dog-friendly sausages, and the Domain, where dogs are allowed in a majority of stores, and restaurants and bars have pet-friendly patios.

Other off-leash havens for pets include Auditorium Shores and its neighbor Zilker Park, with perfectly wide-open spaces suitable for keeping your pet active. Austin is also a well-established no-kill city, with some very active shelters, and we have a growing roster of mobile vet businesses.

Ahead of Austin was Boston (No. 3), Seattle (No. 2), with Portland, Oregon taking the No. 1 spot for the United States’ most pet-friendly city. Coming in at No. 5 is Washington, D.C.

In a comparison of only Southern cities, Austin ranked No. 2, with Tampa, Florida outranking the Texas Capital. Rounding out the top four are Tulsa, Oklahoma (No. 3), and Orlando, Florida (No. 4).

The only other Texas cities that made it onto HomeToGo’s shortlist was El Paso and Dallas, ranking No. 20 and No. 22, respectively.

The top 10 most pet-friendly cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 2 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 3 – Boston, Massachusetts
  • No. 4 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 5 – Washington, D.C.
  • No. 6 – Louisville, Kentucky
  • No. 7 – Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • No. 8 – Charlotte, North Carolina
  • No. 9 – Jacksonville, Florida
  • No. 10 – (tie) Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia

The full report can be found on hometogo.com.

Veracruz All Natural/ Facebook

6 things to know in Austin food right now: Local street taco chain fries up sit-down Mueller concept

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.


Veracruz All Natural, one of Austin's favorite taco chains, is coming to Muelleras Veracruz Fonda & Bar, a sit-down concept. Although some hardcore taco fans might turn away from a chain, sisters and owners Reyna and Maritza Vazquez are bona fide taco pros, born and raised in the restaurant life in Mexico. They opened their food truck in Austin in 2008, becoming known for both straightforward and creative tacos loaded up with veggies. The new location will serve traditional meals, pastries, and coffee at 1905 Aldrich St., and opens on April 8. Mueller's Aldrich Street district announced that along with Veracruz, it would add locations for Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse, Dish Society, Nautical Bowls, and Sweetgreen.

Other news and notes

The old world of Texas barbecue and the new world of YouTubers collide on a channel called Mad Scientist BBQ, where Jeremy Yoder cooks and talks about the supremacy of the regional art. He's bringing that argument and a 1,000-gallon smoker on the road through Texas, signing on some guest chefs to cook for fans along the tour, and then giving the four-barrel monster away. Hopeful winners can buy a mug ($49) to enter. Yoder will announce his tour locations and dates on Instagram as he goes.

Brunch doesn't have to be a lazy Sunday activity. The Dirdie Birdie, a surreal carnival of an indoor mini golf course, just added a brunch service starting April 8, every Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. Befitting the imaginative golf course, the food is also above and beyond. Try a loco moco (Hawaiian hamburger) with crispy jasmine rice, ham, and runny egg; chicken and waffles with hot honey; avocado toast with mezcal pickled onions; bottomless mimosas, and more. Reserve at dirdiebirdieatx.com.

A free "Dog Party" at the Lucky Rabbit Live Music Bar & Kitchen on April 8 will connect interested adopters with dogs from Texas Humane Heroes and Texas Lifelong Friends. Mobile adoption units make it possible to complete everything onsite, but if visitors prefer just to get acquainted, there's plenty to do with their own pooches. The kitchen is whipping up some specialty hot dogs (for dogs); organizations are trimming nails, selling pet apparel and jewelry; and three bands are playing live. No RSVP required.

If you're not already super competitive about bar trivia, maybe having some Austin FC players in attendance will put a fire under your own team. Will Bruin, Leo Vaisanen, Jon Gallagher, and Nick Lima are heading over to Pluckers Wing Bar (9070 Research Blvd.) on April 12 to participate in a soccer and general sports round of the weekly live trivia game. Even if a visitor doesn't win trivia, they may win a raffle for a pair of Austin FC tickets and a signed jersey. Comment on Instagram for a chance to join the FC players' team.

Easter and Passover are finally here, and anyone suffering some last-minute planning angst should check CultureMap's best-of list for new additions. We've had our ears to the ground and shared our favorites. There are 11 recommendations from weekend brunches, to egg hunts, to beautiful desserts. Neighborhood Italian restaurant L’Oca D’Oro offers an all-faiths Passover Seder; Fareground removes the obstacle of families having to agree on what to eat; and Drag performers don their Sunday best.

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Get immersed in Hallmark Channel Christmas at this Texas hotel holiday suite

like a hallmark movie

It's that time of year again, when the airwaves are flooded with that holiday staple known as the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Legions of fans know the plots by heart. Big-city gal returns to her small town, finds love and saves Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten. Two colleagues who can't stand each other discover they have more in common than ever imagined and find love. And save Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten. Three generations of family at loggerheads re-connect after finding themselves stranded in a cozy cabin in the woods. And save Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten.

Hilton-Americas Houston

Photo by Christy Radecic

Stay inside a Hallmark holiday movie.

Now, fans who love the genre for its uplifting messages and smiles-through-tears can experience the movies in a whole new way. The Hilton Americas-Houston is offering a limited-time Hallmark Channel “Countdown to Christmas” Holiday Suite by Hilton, available starting November 1 and running through January 1, 2024. The hotel is one of only three Hilton properties across the country to offer this one-of-a-kind festive dreamscape.

In H-Town, guests can book the Hilton Americas-Houston's "Haul Out the Holly" suite, which offers a cascade of seasonal cheer, and is based on the all-new, original Hallmark holiday movie of the same name. Look for jaw-dropping holiday designs and light treatments throughout the suite, including enchanting light pillows, a light-up holiday village that will dazzle the world’s biggest Christmas enthusiasts, a custom holiday light decorating station, a gingerbread bar, and more.

Expect special surprise-and-delight moments like a festive oversized game, a custom Hallmark Channel light-up marquee, and even a twinkling Christmas light ceiling. This exceptional stay will allow guests to embrace the essence of the sequel film, starring beloved Hallmark star Lacey Chabert and centering on the iconic residents and ongoing HOA decorating competitions — and infamous citations — of the ever-festive Evergreen Lane.

"We're thrilled to partner with Hallmark for a collaboration that embodies the joy of the holiday season and brings to life the light and warmth of hospitality we show our guests every day,” said Matt Schuyler, chief brand officer, Hilton in a press release announcing the initiative. “This is a great representation of Hilton’s commitment to delivering immersive and unforgettable experiences during every stay. Our collaboration with Hallmark allows us to leverage timeless storytelling to bring an added level of excitement during the holidays.”

The "Haul Out the Holly" suite, like its counterparts the “Hallmark’s Holiday Sweetest Suite” at the Hilton New York Times Square and the “Santa Summit” at the Hilton Chicago, includes a custom-decorated Christmas tree and complimentary hot cocoa station.

To keep the holiday cheer going all season long, each of these special guest suites also include Hallmark Channel-branded takeaways that guests can enjoy with their loved ones during or after their holiday stay. Think Hallmark Channel Wine, Bissinger’s cocoa mix and hot cocoa bombs, Republic of Tea products, wine glasses, mugs, and more.

Rates start at $1,050 per night. Reservations can be made online.

Austin's Wildflower Center goes elemental for immersive holiday light walk

how the wildflowers glow

Most cities will not spend the holidays frolicking through wildflowers — actually, even for Austin that's a bit of a stretch. But the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has applied its conservationist and gardening sensibilities to another seasonal walk through nature this winter.

Luminations, a nearly two-mile stroll through the arboretum, has returned in an entirely new form, with all new light installations to bring some immersive magic to the darker nights.

Unlike most of the other light-led destinations this holiday season, this one doesn't rest on specific holiday themes, opting instead for more abstract explorations. This year's theme is the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. One installation illuminates falling water in interesting patterns, while others create larger-than life fluttering wings and faux bioluminescent plants.

Although the seasonal installations are new, visitors will likely recognize the oversized tire swing-like chairs that have been featured in many a nighttime selfie at other installations. (In fact, it looks like you can buy these popular LED seats online, but may just want to visit the Wildflower Center to save $500 and avoid a drop shipping nightmare.)

Other photos show a lantern-lit path that calls to mind the Mexican and Southwestern luminaria tradition, which highlights the unique masonry around the "Great Hall."

Although it is open to all ages, this glowing stroll will be one of the more adult activations thanks to the abstraction. A release touts "a rotating cast of local food trucks" including Craig-O’s, Asian Express and Ike-N-Aves. There will also be hot chocolate (that can be spiked) and a full bar with specialty cocktails.

Luminations opened November 24, 2023, and will run through January 6, 2024, with some blackout dates around Christmas and New Year's Eve. Tickets ($28 for adults, $18 for youth, plus member discounts) are available at wildflower.org.

National restaurant magazine meticulously chooses Austin's best rising chefs

Another week in Austin, another opportunity to celebrate chefs. But this time, it's insider praise, and there will be bites to try during a two-week celebration.

Restaurant industry magazine StarChefs has named its 2023 Austin-San Antonio Rising Stars, which will appear in a print issue coming out in December. It promises "recipes, industry trends, business intel, beverage knowledge, new techniques, and a fresh dose of culinary inspiration," and features a frame-worthy Texas-themed cover.

To celebrate, it is also hosting Rising Stars Restaurant Week from December 1-15. 23 food and beverage professionals are among this year's winners: the third class in Austin and San Antonio, and the 84th class nationally. Restaurant Weeks participants who order a featured dish and post on social media may win a $100 gift certificate.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps it's because CultureMap has a category of the same name in our annual Tastemaker Awards. CultureMap's Rising Star Chefs are usually sous and executive chefs who don't yet own their own restaurant but might soon; for StarChefs, it seems more like a blanket term for chefs who are very active in any stage of their careers. Kareem El-Ghayesh made both lists, but the rest are unique.

To ensure a careful choice, these awards are based less on StarChefs staff's memory of their cooking, but in a series of tastings and interviews with more than 100 professionals. The judges also take characteristics like food philosophy and leadership in the industry into account.

“In both Austin and San Antonio, we saw cities experiencing immense growth—with food and beverage professionals hustling to keep pace, matching the new energy with eagerness and innovation," said StarChefs managing partner Will Blunt in a press release. "And, more importantly, the Central Texas hospitality [industry] seems to be managing to ride the wave of rapid evolution while staying anchored in the community and true to the best version of itself.”

StarChefs coverThe print issue features cute grackles enjoying a plate of Texas barbecue.starchefs.com

The winners are divided into several categories. The primary category is "Chefs," dominated by Austin chefs: Kareem El-Ghayesh of KG BBQ, Geoff Ellis of Mum Foods Smokehouse and Delicatessen, Rich Reimbolt of Better Half Coffee & Cocktails, Keith Rzepecki of Hestia, and Amanda Turner of Olamaie. San Antonio was represented by a single winner: Emil Oliva of Leche de Tigre.

Arjav Ezekiel and Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel of Birdie’s (in Austin) are frequently included in best-of lists, and this time is no different. The couple was selected as "Game Changers," presented by S.Pellegrino, meaning that their efforts have an innovative twist. Here's what the click-through bio says on the official winners list:

"Their relaxed counter service model, along with the caliber of their wine program — and the execution and hyper-fixation on seasonality in the food program — serves as a bastion for a new way of thinking about elevated service. Tracy and Arjav are able to offer their employees [livable] wages, extensive paid time off, and a number of other benefits due to their commitment to their reimagined business model."

San Antonio turned the tides in the "Restaurateurs" category, presented by Jade Range. All three winners were from San Antonio: Nicola Blaque of The Jerk Shack and Mi Roti; and Andrew Ho and Sean Wen of Curry Boys BBQ, Pinch Boil House, and Wurst Behavior. Individual chefs can't be two places at once, but these powerful players have demonstrated that their ideas will keep contributing to the local scene as they build them out.

Both cities shared the spotlight in the "Community" category, presented by Resy. According to the release, it "Recognizes professionals who are deeply connected to the local hospitality community, dedicate their time to community outreach, and are ultimately catalysts for involving members of the culinary community in important initiatives." Dustin Baker of Roadmap Brewing Co., and Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria.

The rest of the categories contained only Austin professionals:

  • Concept: Brian Batch and Ryan McElroy of Bird Bird Biscuit
  • Pastry Chefs: Derrick Flynn of Este and Suerte; and Casandra Perez-Martinez of Comedor
  • Bartender: Erin Ashford of Holiday
  • Sommeliers: Alex Wheatley Bell of Aviary Wine & Kitchen; and Rania Zayyat of Bufalina
  • Artisans: Ben and Phoebe Hollander of Casper Fermentables; and Will Jaquiss of Meanwhile Brewing Co.

One more Austin chef received unique acclaim in the "Mentor" category. The other winners voted in this category to choose someone who supports young chefs and helps them grow their skills: Fiore Tedesco of L'Oca D'Oro.

As part of Rising Stars Restaurant Week, East Coast restaurant supply company Singer M.Tucker and Austin pastry chef Jules Stoddart of Little Ola’s Biscuits will be helping to raise funds for local youth and food equity nonprofit Urban Roots. StarChefs will donate $3 for every spiced apple kolache Little Ola’s sells during the festivities. There will also be a fan-voted plating competition between award winners.

Even if a restaurant is not on your list to visit, it's worth it to check out the interactive winners list for recipes. Find those and order the 2023 Austin-San Antonio print issue at starchefs.com.